Monday, 6/28/10

LAT 2:45 (Amy—Across Lite)
NYT 2:02 (joon—across lite)
CS untimed
BEQ 5:45 (with one booboo)

psych! one more puzzle’s worth of guest bloggers. amy’s flight home got canceled because of storms, and she’s coming back from new york the long way (via milwaukee). she’ll be here tomorrow morning to blog the other monday puzzles, though.

Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword—joon’s review

nyt100628breezy monday puzzle, with six theme answers each eight letters long and starting with _A_A (with the same letter in both _s):

  • {Dreamy state} is LA-LA LAND.
  • {Gilda Radner character on “S.N.L.”} BABA WAWA is something i learned from crosswords. this is a spoof of barbara walters.
  • {One in a million} is a RARA AVIS. RARA by itself with the clue {___ avis} is crosswordese, so it’s elegant to elevate this to full-phrase status.
  • {“Hubba hubba!”} clues “VA-VA-VOOM!”. nice one.
  • and a matched pair: {1961 hit for the Shirelles}, MAMA SAID, and the {Owner of the largest bed Goldilocks tried}, PAPA BEAR.

the fill was extremely scrabbly, with a fistful of Js and Xs and a Q (but no Z). and it was a fast monday solve for me even though i started by being unable to answer 1a, which is usually a bad sign. i think the scrabbliness helped, because putting in rare letters can make it easier to get the crossing word with little help.

freshest fill: JEWFRO, clued as {Curly ethnic hairstyle, colloquially}. this was in an inkwell puzzle a couple weeks ago, and i remember thinking, “awesome, but that wouldn’t fly in the gray lady.” i guess i was wrong! i also liked LIVE TV and OXYMORON, although it was a bit distracting to have 8-letter fill words when all of the theme answers were only 8 letters too. the clue for OXYMORON, {Clearly confused, e.g.}, is pretty tough for a monday.

non-monday word: VEERY, clued as {Small American thrush}. yikes. i admit i don’t know birds, but wow.

Note from Amy: I do know birds, and I know the vireo but certainly not the VEERY. Not Monday fill! I had the same thoughts as Joon about JEWFRO.

Many thanks, Joon, for covering for me! (And warm thanks as well to the rest of the Fiend crew: Jeffrey, Angela, Sam, Evad, and Janie.) The lesson I have learned is that I probably should’ve spent hundreds of dollars more to take Southwest from Midway airport, because O’Hare grows increasingly horrendous with each passing year. Seriously, canceled flights at both ends of the trip? A week after my husband had one of two flight legs canceled on his prior trip to New York? (Sigh.)


Updated Monday morning:

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Pigtails”—Janie’s review

No, not these (hey—who said they were just for little girls?!), but words that can follow the word “pig.” And since it’s the first word of the five theme phrases that provides the “tail,” this (mostly) makes for some fine before-and-after action, too. There’s:

  • 20A. (Pig) IRON CURTAIN [Cold War barrier between East and West]. Did you know that pig iron gets its name from the appearance of the way it’s shaped (in molds that resemble piglets suckling on a sow…)? TMI? Sorry…
  • 11D. (Pig) HEADED OUT [Took one's leave]. Probably because this one’s a verb phrase, the before-and-after thang doesn’t apply as well.
  • 39A. (Pig) PEN NAME [Writer's disguise]. Hafta wonder what the real name of Charles Schulz’s “Pig-Pen” was… (Schulz, you remember, gave us the comic strip “Peanuts.” PEANUT is the [Type of plant popularized by George Washington Carver].)
  • 35 D. (Pig) SKIN-FLICK [Movie unfit for the kids]. The best. This one is great fill with or without the theme connection (imoo…). Oh—and check out this list of “pigskin” flicks. Am still lookin’ to catch up with The Longest Yard
  • 59A. (Pig) LATIN GRAMMY [Musical award won by Gloria Estefan and José Feliciano]. Or let’s make that “igpay atinlay ammygray”!

And there’s so much lively non-theme fill to boot:

  • MIND GAME [Manipulative tactic meant to deceive] and SAY “UNCLE” [Admit defeat] are strong among the other long fill.
  • K-MART and E-MAIL make the list as both have those lettered hyphenates as their first syllable. [Novelist Zola] EMILE does not make the cut…
  • The ILIAD [Homeric masterpiece] is a fitting complement to EPIC [Heroic tale], and while we’re looking at items in the classic vein, there’s also OVID, that [Roman writer of erotic verse]. In Latin. Not igpay atinlay…
  • For a [Bit of film footage], how about a CLIP from ["]SOME [Like It Hot"]? And JANE [Calamity out west] was the eponymous character played by Doris Day in the 1953 film that was probably most famous for its Academy Award-winning song, “(Once I had a) Secret Love.” (High-kitsch clip indeed!)
  • It’s some four months away, but there’s a definite all-Hallows undercurrent with SPOOK [Halloween haunter], CREEPY [Eerie], SCARES [Alarms], ANTICS [Playful capers] and -STER [Suffix with trick or prank].

The beauty part of fill like this is that it all serves to UNIFY [Bring together] the puzzle as a whole. This is much to be desired!

Scott Atkinson’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 1A simple but fresh theme: animals whose names combine two animal names. The etymology isn’t 100% consistent, but who’s gonna know that unless they look up the beasts in the dictionary?

  • 17A. [Hammerhead relative with stripes] is a TIGER SHARK.
  • 27A. The ELEPHANT SEAL is a [Huge walrus relative].
  • 48A. [Primate with spindly limbs] clues SPIDER MONKEY.
  • 63A. The oddball is the TURTLEDOVE, which is one word, not two, and named after the sound it makes, not after a turtle. It’s [One of two in "The Twelve Days of Christmas"].

Five points:

  • 22A. [Adjust a paragraph setting] is RETAB? I am not convinced that’s a word.
  • 21A. [1930s-'40s New York mayor La Guardia]‘s first name was FIORELLO, or “little flower.” We had so many hours to kill at his eponymous airport, we discovered that Famiglia pizza can be pretty good (the one with fresh mozzarella, sliced tomato, and basil), and it’s nice to have a more spacious bookstore (Borders) than airport terminals usually have.
  • Woman corner! Annie OAKLEY, ANN Curry, Loretta LYNN, ELSA (well, clued as a lioness and not a person), YOKO ONO‘s full name are all together. ENYA and EMME are shunted to other sections of the puzzle.
  • I like 38A: [Give new meaning to] as a clue for REDEFINE. The clue sounds like so much more, but it also clearly defines REDEFINE.
  • I’m too tired to think of a fifth item.

Updated Monday afternoon:

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

Region capture 2I’m shopping for a new car, not a used one, so for all I knew, reseller CARMAX was a [Vehicle history report provider]. Turns out that’s CARFAX, not MAX. I had the first letter of 56d as the mystery letter in 55a: [Owner of a complete set]. MANATIC looked wrong, but so did MANITIC and every other version with a different vowel in the middle. ["Jock-___ fee-na-ne" ("Iko Iko" lyrics)] was familiar to me from my last trip to New Orleans, but does that look like the sort of thing with strict spelling rules? No, it does not. The A-MO part seems pretty consistent, but the lasts syllable sometimes shows up as “nay.”

Freshest entries: JIVE-ASS (yes, I hyphenate the “ass” formations as both nouns and adjectives, and yes, I have given plenty of thought to this. I even discussed the matter with other editor types when I was editing something with “stanky-ass” modifying “hippie.”); tennis record-holder JOHN ISNER; IDLE CHAT; I HEAR YA; and Stephen King’s ON WRITING.

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29 Responses to Monday, 6/28/10

  1. sbmanion says:

    I have frequently seen JEWISH AFRO, but I can’t recall ever seeing JEWFRO. Somehow the complete phrase seems descriptive and the shortened one pejorative, although not racist, to my ears.

    One of the better Mondays. 2:02 is obscene.

    Steve

  2. Wes says:

    I literally laughed out loud when I hit JEWFRO. Awesome

  3. ArtLvr says:

    Thanks, joon — Good write-up. I did wonder about the FRO… Best google of the week, after I finished, was the VEERY thrush. It turns out that the Thrush family name in Latin is a yukky Turdidae. It isn’t a variation of Vireo, passerine bird(s) of the family Vireonidae.

  4. foodie says:

    I’ve heard of a JEWFRO, and always thought it was a way to annoy two ethnic groups in two syllables.

  5. Plot says:

    Not too pleased with the clearly-confusing VEERY in a monday puzzle, but I suppose it was deemed a necessary evil in order to fit both OXYMORON and the theme answer into the grid. Despite that setback, I was somehow still able to (barely) break the two-minute barrier for the first time in an NYT puzzle.

    On an unrelated note, does anyone want to place a bet on which constructor will be the first to use VUVUZELA in a puzzle? It’s gotta happen at least once before world cup fever dies down, right? I’ve got BEQ as the odds-on favorite, of course.

  6. Tuning Spork says:

    Plot,

    I fully expected VUVUZELA in BEQ’s Thursday puzzle but, alas, it never came. He really is becoming quite the slacker these days, eh?

    I keed, I keed! ;-)

    I just did the LAT puzzle. It hasn’t been blogged yet, but didn’t we have this exact same theme — with some the same fill — very recently? Either that or it was a puzzle in my Simon and Schuster book.

  7. Martin says:

    Yes, a similar theme ran in the LAT (2008/02/04):

    http://www.cruciverb.com/data.php?op=showpuzzle&puzzle_id=13736

    It’s the same idea, but some of the theme entries are different.

    -MAS

  8. Gareth says:

    Did like this one: simple, but well-executed theme. As you said lots of high-value letters, though because of the grid all in short fill, which is unusual. Then VEERY which is one RARA AVIS – never heard of it either, and wildlife’s usually a stronger suit! Am I the only one who feels he sees ICEAX(E) more often than he should? JEWFRO was a gem of an entry even if Tausig beat Joel Fagliano to the punch!

    Someone has already used VUVUZELA a few weeks back… Matt Gaffney??

  9. Sara says:

    I think of JEWFRO is an insider term. It’s not pejorative, just descriptive. I was surprised to see it, too. Funny that today was so fast for me, given that I didn’t know VEERY or MAMBA.

  10. Sparky says:

    I’m sorry, JEWFRO not acceptable by me. I didn’t like GAYDAR either and will never use the N word. The, “Well they say it among themselves” thing doesn’t make it okay. And don’t call me a Mick. Whew!

  11. ArtLvr says:

    p.s. Loved Lynn Lempel’s Pigtails puzzle, especially PIG-HEADED.

  12. Martin says:

    Sparky,

    The implication of your comment is that “Jew” is a pejorative term. It’s not.

    Jews call each others Jews because that’s what they are. It’s very different than black people using the N-word among themselves. The notion that the word “Jew” is offensive is what’s offensive.

  13. Deb Amlen says:

    Well said, Martin. Not only that, but what makes it acceptable in a puzzle is the fact that the term has become “in the language”, whereas other, more racist terms have not.

    As a curly-haired member of the tribe myself, I have to say I was surprised at first to see it in the grid, but not upset. In fact, it made me smile because it was, IMHO, a fresh and brave entry.

    If I absolutely had to pick something to be offended about in this puzzle, it would probably be the entry EMBAR, which seems kind of forced to me. Otherwise, a very cool Monday puzzle.

  14. Martin says:

    We haven’t had a Newsday discussion in a while. Today, APES is clued as “Family business owners, perhaps.” Anybody understand?

  15. Jeffrey says:

    @Martin: A reference to monkey business?

  16. Alex says:

    We haven’t had a Newsday discussion in a while. Today, APES is clued as “Family business owners, perhaps.” Anybody understand?

    I’m guessing that clue was intended for 16-Across.

  17. LARRY says:

    It seems to me I saw JEWFRO in a puzzle quite recently referring to Bob Dylan’s hair early in his career. But I still don’t like the term. I’m with Sparky on this one.

  18. pezibc says:

    “…..term has become “in the language”, whereas other, more racist terms have not.”

    They may not be considered respectable and, though I don’t use them myself about town, they are easily recognized, and, I argue, ‘in the language’. Whether okay, slightly pejorative, or fully offensive, they are fine by me because, truth be told, I am more interested in language and usage than individual sensibilities.

  19. Jordan says:

    Perhaps someday a constructor will incorporate John Isner by reference to his nickname, Jizner. I also had no clue on the family business owners for apes thing. Would have glanced right over it in a poorly edited puzzle such as USA Today but was a bit weird in Newsday.

  20. Joel says:

    Thanks for the comments everybody! Regarding JEWFRO, it wasn’t meant to provoke or offend, and I’m sorry that people thought it crossed the line. However, as a Jew, I use the word all the time, and have never thought of it as a slur in any way, just as a cool word that I wanted to put in a puzzle. As for VEERY, I see and hear them all the time when I’m walking my dog, so it’s not an unknown species to me.

  21. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Apparently the VEERY breeds in the summer in my region (according to the range map), and I grew up with bird-savvy parents. But I don’t know this bird at all. Huh.

    Given that neither “Jew” nor “Afro” is an insult, I fail to see how “Jewfro” can offend.

  22. LARRY says:

    Re BEQ’s offering: I watched the whole first season of TREME on HBO and loved the music, especially the snatches of IKO IKO, which I first heard almost 40 years ago sung by DR JOHN (who’s still going strong), but I still had to get AMO from the crosses.

    As for packs of beer being SESTETS, my dictionaries show that the only sense in which a SESTET and a SEXTET are synonymous is the last six lines of a sonnet.

  23. Eric Maddy says:

    re Newsday:
    If it hadn’t been for the “perhaps”, I would have laughed it off as an error. But “perhaps” had me spending way too long wondering if there was “perhaps” something I was missing….

  24. john farmer says:

    I was going to say something earlier but I thought Alex nailed it. It’s probably redundant but I’ll say it anyway.

    The “Family business owners, perhaps” clue works perfectly for MOM AND POP (and better than the clue in the puzzle), so that was probably a late update for the clue at 16A. Instead it was erroneously added at 14A, where APES is the answer.

    Most likely, it’s just a goof. I wouldn’t think too hard trying to make a connection between APES and the family business. Even if for some operations the clue might work.

  25. joon says:

    amy, CARFAX commercials have been unavoidable during the NBA playoffs, so i’m guessing that’s where BEQ pulled that entry. chalk up another one for the sports fanboy set.

  26. Martin says:

    John,

    My tongue was clearly too embedded in my cheek. I rejected “Family business” as meaning Mafia after a very quick giggle and am quite sure it’s an alternate clue for 16-Across. There have been so many late changes that weren’t checked in these puzzles lately, I would hesitate to call the Newsdays “well edited” anymore. How’s that for less subtle?

    It’s a shame.

  27. John Farmer says:

    Subtlety was something my day was sorely lacking … then when it was right there in front of me, I missed it.

    I did just notice the new avatar. Hard for me to tell what it is, but I imagine it’s something tasty.

  28. Martin says:

    It’s a box of New Years specialties. Kelp bowties, simmered reconstituted freeze-dried tofu, carrot and radish salad, simmered deep-fried tofu and herring roe spawned on kelp. They all have symbolic meanings and all are a lot tastier than they sound. My hexagon with the Hitler mustache was driving me crazy.

  29. Taio Cruz says:

    loved this blog post!

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